Archives for posts with tag: lemon pie

“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.”
Henry David Thoreau

and if that means 15 kinds of citrus meals, so be it.
Suzanne Edminster at Saltworkstudio
http://saltworkstudio.wordpress.com
Ms. Edminster is my best friend and kindly sent me the Thoreau quote this afternoon for the blog. To me the quote and her comment capture the essence of seasonal cooking: things never taste fresher or more lovely than in their true season and we are wise to eat them then and let them pass for the rest of the year as the calendar and the fields move on to new delights. We may, like Greg Brown’s grandmother, put the summer in jars, if we have the skill, and be able to taste raspberries on our toast in February (to my mind preferable to any red velvet dessert). Or we may make do with frozen berries and store-bought jam and wait for each season to come round again. And while there are delightful days for seasonal cooks when we buy our favorite things at the market or get our favorites in our CSA there are also the days when we say, “Oh, God. Another bunch of kale. Another four pounds of tangerines. What am I going to do with ten leeks and four celery roots?” A cleverer person than I called this “vegetable triage.” Most of us seasonal cooks are dedicated to this way of eating and living and will eventually grumble and take up the challenge.
Painting depicts partial Shaker Lemon Pie in front of a Meyer lemon tree.

Meyer Lemon Pie. 12″ x 12″ watercolor pencil, watercolor and gouache. Sharyn Dimmick

Debra of Three Well Beings wondered if I needed an assignment to get me going again on blogging about seasonal food. She asked if I had any more lemon recipes. Well, there is one lemon recipe I have been wanting to try ever since hearing about it: Shaker lemon pie, a pie of thinly-sliced lemons marinated in sugar overnight before being mixed with eggs, butter and flour and baked in a two-crust pie. You heard me right: two crusts. Every other lemon pie I make is a one-crust affair and even though I am temporarily out of unbleached flour I have pie crust in my refrigerator because we always make four crusts at a time. You can find my mother’s pie crust recipe here, if you need a recipe.

You can’t get any more local than going outside the front door to pick Meyer lemons off your own tree. Our tree is organic, too, meaning we give it very little: coffee grounds, tea leaves, water and a little copper now and then. Mom has been pruning it relentlessly to try to get it to bear its fruit high above the ground, hoping that snails all have fear of heights, so it is not the most prolific lemon tree on the block, but it had enough lemons for the pie (the recipe I used called for two, but that looked so pitiful in my glass bowl that I went out and picked a third to add to it).

I brought the lemons back inside, rinsed them and dried them. Before I even went to the kitchen or the yard I Googled a recommended recipe and tried to find out how to slice lemons “paper-thin.” No luck. Considering that recent tests put me in the first and fifteenth percentile for manual dexterity (that means either ninety-nine or eighty-five percent of people tested are more dextrous than I am), I recognized that thin rounds might be a problem. I have neither the patience nor the experience of Shaker women who have made this pie many times, although I share their desire to cook frugally.

First I tried a thin-bladed serrated knife. I worked slowly and held the lemon firmly. I even sliced off a slab on one side so that the lemon would sit flat on the cutting board. Try as I might I could not get those tissue-thin perfect slices. Next, I got out the mandoline. The mandoline sliced through the pith and tore the lemon flesh. Not good. Finally, I took up a sharp steak knife and slowly, carefully, tried to cut see-through slices. I got a few. The closer you get to the far end of a lemon, the harder it is to hold it steady. I need a lemon vice. The only thing I didn’t try was the meat slicer.

Because I was using whole lemons, minus only the seeds, I put in the entire two cups of sugar the recipe called for: lemon pith is bitter and I did not want a bitter pie: tart, yes, bitter, no. And I followed the recipe for filling that my friend Carol uses, purloined from the online version of Joy of Cooking because I had never made this pie before.

I put the lemons to marinate in a clear glass bowl in the refrigerator, placing a china plate on top to seal the bowl (I am one of those people who feels bad when I use plastic wrap and I love finding ways around it). Then yesterday we went out and bought the flour we needed to finish the pie during our weekly grocery-shopping rounds.

First I rolled out the bottom crust and put the oven on to preheat at 425. Then I whisked 4 large eggs in a mixing bowl and added 3 Tbsp flour. Why didn’t I whisk an egg slowly into the flour and avoid lumps? Because sometimes I don’t think, that’s why, but you can do it that way. Then I melted 1/4 cup unsalted butter in the microwave and had to let it cool. Why didn’t I melt the butter first before beating the eggs? See above answer. I don’t often use mise en place, although quite often I should.

Anyway, with a lot of whisking I got a fairly smooth mixture, then added the lemon-sugar mixture and whisked again. I poured it into my prepared pie shell and rolled out a top crust, pinched the edges together and put the pie into the oven. This is one of those stay in the kitchen (or use a timer) recipes because you need to turn the oven down to 350 after 25 minutes. It might be a good idea to turn it down a little sooner or start it at 400 — my crust browned awfully fast. The filling turned a jammy, deep golden color, reminiscent of the color of the ripe Meyer lemons themselves.

Madge, the pie critic, commented that it was a little bitter. She’s right — it has a slightly bitter edge like a mild marmalade does because you use the whole lemon. I don’t mind it. It has deep lemon flavor. And her comment did not stop her from having another piece at lunch today. If you need a pie that is all sweetness and light, this is not your pie, can’t be your pie. If you love all lemon desserts all the time, make it and see what you think.

painting shows a single red shoe.

One Red Shoe. 8″ x 8″ gouache and watercolor pencil. Sharyn Dimmick.

Okay, so what’s this about the red shoe? Not in the pie, silly. Cecilia of TheKitchensGarden kindly awarded me the Educational Shoe Award, given to blogs that teach, because I preach the gospel of seasonal cooking and because I chime in with helpful hints on other food blogs when I think something I say might be helpful. It came with a high-heeled red shoe. I am grateful to Cecilia for honoring me and my two cents worth: she lives on a farm, raising animals and bees and crops, preserving her own bounty and wishing us cheery good mornings from her Illinois homestead. She also writes and coaches us on how to take better photos. I am also grateful to her for giving me the opportunity to paint red shoes. Turns out I own and have owned several red shoes, but this is the first red shoe that came to mind, a little flat number because I can’t walk in high heels. I will pass on the award in a future post after I have had time to study some potential recipients and think on it.

Food notes: You need the sugar in this pie — all of it: you need it to transform the bitter pith. I can’t recommend experiments or substitutions because this is the first time I have made this pie, although I can confess to wondering if I could make it with thin-skinned Valencia oranges, or a mixture of oranges and lemons. The official recipe says “thin-skinned lemons” (Meyers are perfect). You need thin-skinned varieties because they have less pith.

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painting of lemon pie and blue teapot

Lemon Sponge Pie, 8″ x 8″, gouache and watercolor pencil. Sharyn Dimmick

My late older brother ate pretty much the opposite of what I eat. He ate a lot of fast food, quick food and processed food. He drank mugs of coffee laced with up to a quarter cup of sugar, minus what he spilled on the counter. He liked raw carrots and celery and fresh strawberries, but he only ate those things if someone else washed them, cut them up and put them in a bowl for him, preferably on the counter where he could see it. The only other vegetable he consumed regularly was onions, although he once ate seven jars of marinated artichokes out of the case Mom gave him on Christmas Day. In the fruit category he liked raisins, strawberry milk and blueberry pie.

In the last year of his life, Kevin had an experience that improved his diet slightly. He liked to tell the story. His then girlfriend, Barbara, who would become his wife, had a cat named Jigs. Jigs looked forward to Kevin’s visits because he nearly always brought bags of fast food with him. One day Kevin arrived with a McDonald’s bag, containing a cheeseburger and an order of Chicken McNuggets. Kevin broke  open a McNugget and gave it to Jigs. Jigs sniffed it, immediately commenced to try to bury it and walked away, insulted. Kevin said, when he told the story, that if a cat wouldn’t eat something that was supposed to be chicken he wasn’t going to eat it anymore either.

Michael Pollan has famously given us the guideline not to eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. We hew pretty closely to that in our household these days, although we each have our indulgences: we buy Prego spaghetti sauce because Mom made her own for years and we can honestly say we like Prego better. I particularly like the Italian sausage flavor. We use it for quick suppers. Sometimes I add fresh summer squash or mushrooms or eggplant to the sauce, but sometimes I don’t. Beyond that, my personal weaknesses are for Cheez-It crackers and Golden Grahams cereal. I know I can make cheese straws, but I love Cheez-Its  right out of the box. I don’t buy them often. Golden Grahams are even less defensible — they are tooth-achingly sweet and taste like candy: to be able to eat them at all, I mix them half and half with some healthier cereal — anything not sweetened — and eat them with almonds. I allow myself about one box a year, on sale only.

To me, scary food does not mean food that appears to be dripping blood or cupcakes accented with spiders: scary food means food that has been so processed that it does not resemble the original food it came from.  An order of Chicken McNuggets is a good example, but so is anything labeled “cheese food” or  “pasteurized processed cheese,” as well as white bread from the grocery store. There are many more examples: please feel free to tell me about your personal food horrors in the Comments. Perhaps I’ll put up a link called “The Horror Roll” and list some of your candidates there.

Halloween was Kevin’s birthday. There is nothing he liked that I cook on a regular basis and if I shared one of his “recipes” you would stop reading this blog. Seriously. Instead, I’ll share with you a favorite family recipe that my mother made yesterday with ripe Meyer lemons from our neighbor’s tree and her famous Swedish pie crust. For your convenience, I’ll give you the pie crust recipe below, but I’ll spare you the editorial commentary: for the full rant on pie crust, please visit the Gravenstein Apple Pie post. Meanwhile, get ready to make a Lemon Sponge Pie, which is much like a lemon meringue pie, except that you fold the egg whites into a lemon custard, which includes milk. If you like lemon desserts, you will want to try this.

Make the crust first:

Sift 3 cups unbleached flour with

1 tsp salt

Cut in 1 cup Crisco (or other vegetable shortening) until it is the size of peas. Add a little butter (1-2 Tbsp for flavor).

Break into a one cup measuring cup:

1 large egg. Beat it until blended.

Add to egg:

1 Tbsp white or cider vinegar

Add water until combined liquids reach 1/2 cup, plus a little.

Add liquids to flour, salt, shortening and butter. Stir together crust and form it into a flattened round. Cut 1/4  from the round — this is your crust for this lemon pie. Wrap the other 3/4 crust in waxed paper and store it in the refrigerator for your next pie or quiche (Crust recipe makes 4 single crusts or 2 double-crust pies).

Pat pie crust into a circle on a floured work surface. Roll it out, making sure to roll in all directions and roll out any thick edges. When you think you are done set a 9″ or 10″ pie plate on top of crust. Adjust as needed: you need to roll this crust very thin for best results.

Transfer your crust to your pie tin. The classic method is folding the crust into quarters and unfolding it in the tin.

Now preheat your oven to 400 degrees or 350 if using a Pyrex  pie plate. Proceed with filling.

Pie filling:

Separate 2 large eggs, whites into a small mixing bowl, yolks into a larger one.

Beat the egg whites until fairly stiff. Leave beaters in place and change to larger bowl.

Beat egg yolks with:

1 cup milk

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup flour.

Zest 3 or 4 lemons over the bowl of egg mixture. Squeeze juice from lemons into bowl — you need at least 1/3 cup of juice.

Fold egg whites gently into the other ingredients and pour filling into your prepared crust. Transfer the pie to the oven. Keep an eye on it —  you are going to bake it for about 25 minutes, but this pie burns easily. If you are worried about it, put a strip of foil over the crust. Bake until filling is not sloshy. Allow to cool to lukewarm — if you cut it too warm, the filling will run and you will have pudding with crust rather than pie.

Like it? You can bake three more with the crust you now have on hand, or you can make quiche, apple pie, pumpkin pie, chocolate pie — whatever you like best.

Food Note: I use Meyer lemons in this recipe because we grow them. Eurekas or other tart lemons are fine, but don’t go above 1/3 cup of juice with them: Meyer lemons are sweeter than other varieties.

The Horror Roll: To nominate candidates for  “The Horror Roll,” please list foods or “foods” that scare you by their apparent deviation from real food in the Comments section. I’ll start a “Horror Roll” page soon with some of the most horrendous nominees. In fact, I’ll start it now. Check it out.